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Opinion

Chel, Dick & Luke

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

A strong democracy is one where the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government share equal powers, with one counter-balancing the other.

This system of check and balance is crucial to prevent one branch of government from subsuming the others and becoming the dominant dictator of policy. It ensures that the greater good for the majority reigns supreme in all facets of policy formulation.

The Senate is crucial. Not only is its concurrence a basic requirement for the enactment of laws, more significantly, it is the only governmental body that can ratify treaties between the Philippines and foreign nations. As we navigate the delicate situation at the West Philippine Sea, it is the Senate who will determine whether we forge treaties with like-minded democracies like the US, Australia and Japan or succumb to Chinese pressure. The Senate is also the body that is empowered to hear impeachment cases of incumbent officials.

Let’s be honest, the Senate we have today is largely populated by members hand picked by the President, most of whom bend to the will of the Palace, no questions asked. The mechanism of check and balance is skewed and we are a weaker republic for it. This must be corrected.

That said, we must elect senatorial candidates whose loyalty lies with the Filipino people and not a political patron or party. The senators we elect must be more academically accomplished and professionally experienced than the best of us. They must be free of conflicts of interest since our laws must benefit the entire population, not specific sectors, industries or groups. Those who have been criminally convicted and those bereft of scruples must be viewed with trepidation.

There are 64 candidates vying for 12 senatorial slots. Let me name three on my list and the reasons why I’ve considered them.

Chel Diokno. Chel is the son of former senator and respected statesman, Pepe Diokno. He obtained a degree in Philosophy from the University of the Philippines before studying Law at Northern Illinois University where he graduated magna cum laude. He is also the founding dean of De La Salle University’s College of Law.

What Chel brings to the table is a profound understanding of the law, a lifelong track record of decency and a deep respect for democracy. He is dead-set on reforming the justice system to rid it of its many defects, not the least of which is making judges accountable for the decisions they author.

Chel has a plan to solve the debilitating case backlog at the Department of Justice. He proposes to separate cases relating to commerce and have them heard not by regular courts but by an arbitration panel under the preview of the DOJ. This will ease the backlog and allow justice to be delivered more swiftly.

The cornerstone of Chel’s platform is to provide free, fair and efficient legal aid for all. To this, he plans to strengthen the Barangay Justice System. He is also an advocate of the Freedom of Information Law, Anti-Discrimination Law and all statues relating to anti-corruption.

Chel is an honest, hardworking patriot. If elected, he will bring respectability and credibility to the Senate.

Dick Gordon. We need a senior statesman in the Senate – one who does not succumb to political pressure and one who can take the morale high ground.

Gordon’s career in public service started in 1971 when he was appointed the youngest member of the Constitutional Commission. Since then, he has had a string of achievements, including the transformation of Olongapo from a third class city to a model metropolis defined by cleanliness, discipline and a vibrant economy. As the founding chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, he led Subic to become a hive for investments, for which 200,000 jobs were created. He also helped establish the economic zones in Poro Point, Bataan and Baguio. At the Department of Tourism, he put the Philippines on the global tourist map and also authored the Tourism Act of 2009.

Gordon has ably chaired the Senate’s Blue Ribbon committee. It was him who called for the investigation of the P728-million Fertilizer Scam of 2004 and the assailed ZTE National Broadband contract, demanding accountability from no less than president Gloria Arroyo herself. Last year, he investigated and filed charges against those involved in the Pharmally scandal.

With Gordon in the Senate, particularly in the Blue Ribbon committee, we can be sure that plunderers will not seep through the cracks.

Luke Espiritu. The Senate is largely composed of rich and powerful individuals – most have occupied political positions before. Sadly, the interest of the masses and common working man is underrepresented.

I must admit, Espiritu was never on my radar. However, the clarity by which he expressed his mission and the manner by which he “educated” an apologist exemplified his strength of character. This man is a “tornado in a jar” who will not be bullied.

Espiritu is a product of the Christian brothers of La Salle who later earned his law degree in Ateneo. A native of Bacolod, Espiritu has been an advocate of labor rights since 2008.

Admittedly, I do not subscribe to some of Espiritu’s proposed reforms, which include drastic increases in minimum wage and repealing the TRAIN and E-VAT laws. However, I believe that a man of his conviction will enhance the dynamism of the Senate. The need to balance the interest of political dynasties and big business with that of the poor cannot be overemphasized. Espiritu has the boldness to competently represent the marginalized.

As we approach Election Day, I will continue to disclose who among the senatorial bets are on my list and why they deserve our vote. Meanwhile, I hope that we all look beyond hype and name recall and vote according to personality, platform and performance.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @aj_masigan

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